Posts tagged with "Tom Wilmer 360 Magazine Culture Editor"

Air Travel COVID Glitches

Air Travel COVID Glitches

360 Magazine Culture Editor, Tom Wilmer reports on the numerous glitches in the process of traveling safe in the air.

The day before I checked in for an early morning flight to Austin, Texas via SFO and Houston, United Airlines was advertising their promise to maintain empty middle-seat flights. But something went haywire at United overnight, as two of my three flights to Austin were packed to the gills with most middle seats occupied—it would have been all three flights, but I was upgraded to first on one leg.

When I checked in for my flight, a notice popped up on my phone from United informing me that it would be a fairly full flight and they offered alternative flights as an option. Nice gesture but rerouting would have entailed a delay until the following day to get to my destination—with no guarantee that the alternate flight option would have blocked middle seats.

As of this writing, virtually all airlines proudly tout mandatory mask requirements for all passengers—but while en route onboard my flights, the dutiful masked passengers dropped their face coverings as flight attendants dispensed beverages (water) and cookies. So there I was, mere inches from my seat mate, both of us doing our duty, wearing our masks – but now protecting only our chins, from the evil, invisible germ. And throughout the cabin it was the same, basically mask-less, scene.

Arriving at Austin/Bergstrom’s TSA cattle chutes, Social-Distancing sticker reminders adorned the concrete floor, every six feet…and the queued-up passengers were actually compliant in their attempts to maintain their distance — that is until we were flagged past the TSA ticket/identification checker. As passengers queued up to take shoes off, extract make-up bags, computers etc., they suddenly, randomly squished frantically up to within three or four inches from one another.

Throughout this collapse of proper social distancing, TSA workers ignored the traffic jamb and continued barking out reminders to remove laptops etc., from bags—but zero, zippo, nada, commands were interjected to maintain proper social distancing as the jumbled-up passengers squished toward the x-ray bag tunnel and body scanner.

Transiting through Denver’s DIA Airport, gaggles of Boulderites, and Denverians dutifully and proudly wore their masks. However, salted in to the hord of obedient, transiting passengers were the all-too-frequent mask less rogues with chins held high and chests puffed out proudly.

The reality of traveling by air today is akin to rush hour commuting by automobile. One moment you’re flowing along at a comfortably safe, even clip while maintaining a proper distance between you and the car ahead. A split second later the flow of traffic snarls up and you jamb on the brakes—Traveling by air is much the same, it’s a continual battle to protect yourself and maintain a bubble of safety.

Calistoga—The Other Napa

360 Magazine Culture Editor Tom Wilmer reports from the town of Calistoga in Napa Valley.

Mention Napa Valley and the first thing that comes to mind for many is wine, world-class wine. The Valley has been producing fine wines for more than a century, but it really wasn’t until a cadre of Napa wines kicked-ass at the now legendary Judgment of Paris in 1976 that things started to go viral.

A bind tasting—that the French just knew would reconfirm their illustrious worldwide status, was crushed when Napa Valley wines rocked their boat. Napa Valley winners included Stag’s Leap, Heitz Cellars, Clos du Val, Ridge Vineyards, Freemark Abby Winery and Mayacamas. Chateau Montelena’s legendary Chardonnay led to the cool film, Bottle Shock that humorously chronicles the classic event. And the French are still pissed.

Today, Napa is a viral destination for wine seekers from around the world. In some respects Napa Valley has become a victim of its own success. During the height of the summer travel season you’ll likely encounter bumper-to-bumper traffic on the main artery, highway 29 wending through the Valley—and wine tasting fees sometimes exceed $80 per person—without a credit applied to a subsequent purchase.

So, the caveat is try and plan a trip during the off-season to avoid the lines and traffic. But there’s also a semi off the radar Napa, and that’s the town of Calistoga in the Valley’s northern reaches. Calistoga is home to the legendary Chateau Montelena Winery, and iconic health spas with historic thermal mud baths that date from the town’s post-Gold Rush roots as one of California’s oldest spa destinations.

A drive through downtown Calistoga along Lincoln Avenue is like taking a trip back in time. There’s a palpable Mayberry R.F.D., small-town feel that’s guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Outstanding is the historic circa-1868 Napa Valley Railroad Depot (California’s second oldest train depot), and ample historic architecture throughout downtown–with many structures dating from the late 1800s. A palpable bonus is the locals’ welcoming, and truly friendly attitude toward visitors.

 

Anchoring the heart of Lincoln Avenue is the Mount View Hotel that has graced downtown Calistoga with its Art Deco motifs since 1919. Hotel owner Michael Woods is such a passionate community booster that he donates 50 percent of the hotel’s profits to local and regional nonprofit organizations.

Woods and his family have gone to great lengths to seek-out authentic Art-Deco furnishings and lighting to maintain and enhance the hotel’s vintage period-ambiance.

Derrick, General Manager at the Mount View shows off the Art Deco motifs at the hotel.

A bonus of a stay at the Mount View is the full-service spa—with a modern twist on the iconic mud bath. Out back there’s an inviting swimming pool (heated year-round) and detached, quaint cottages.

Flanking the hotel’s lobby on one side is a sports bar, and on the opposite flank, the Veraison restaurant specializing in locally sourced cuisine, and of course, an ample wine list of locally produced specialties, including a selection of wines produced by restaurant owner, Dan Kaiser’s parents.

 

Click here to listen to the KCBX/NPR Podcast to listen to the Mayor of Calistoga talk about his passion for his town

Click here to listen to the KCBX/NPR Podcast to listen to the story of the Mount View Hotel

 

Wine tasting can be a fun and unpretentious experience in Calistoga–like at Tank Garage located in a repurposed gas station.

Wine tasting is fun at the Tank Garage Winery in Calistoga


Kona Coffee Fest

360 Magazine’s Culture Editor, Tom Wilmer shares highlights of the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival on the Big Island of Hawaii November 1st through November 10th.

Celebrating its 49th year, the ten-day affair is Hawaii’s oldest food festival. Of course the legendary Kona coffee is the anchor, but music, art, crafts, dance and farm tours are integral aspects of the event.

The festival is an affair that locals savor and look forward to all year, with months of behind-the-scenes advance planning. A popular event with the locals, chefs, and consumers alike is the KTA Super Store’s Kona Coffee Recipe Contest.

There are festivals around the world that are crafted primarily for the tourist, but this is one of those special events that’s propelled by passionate islanders–and visitors are instantly welcomed in to the fold and quickly feel the Aloha of being a member of the island family.

The festival kicks-off November 1st with a sunset Lantern Parade strolling down Alii Drive in the heart of historic Kailua Village.

A sampler of other cool events include a coffee and arts stroll though Holualoa Town, cultural activities and demonstrations with local artists at the Donkey Mill Art Center, and the Miss Kona Coffee Scholarship Competition at the Aloha Theater—and those are just samplers from one day in the festival line up.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FESTIVAL SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Did you know there are more than 600 Kona Coffee estate-producers within the Kona District—and if it ain’t grown in Kona District-it ain’t Kona Coffee.

Coffee has been a part of Hawaii’s agricultural fabric for more than 200 years. It was the immigrants, many who were looking for an alternative to working in the sugarcane fields, who propelled the coffee industry on the Big Island and throughout the State of Hawaii.

Symbolic of Hawaii’s multi-cultural roots, the pioneering coffee workers and planters’ roots read like a page from the United Nations—China, Portugal, Korea, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Japan, Hawaiians and Europeans—and today fifth and sixth generation coffee farmers continue the tradition.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST INTERVIEW AT THE LIVING HISTORY COFFEE FARM

The Festival honors the historic cultural roots with living-history farm tours, coffee picking and other hands-on farm experiences, a Kona Coffee 101 Seminar, and the Kona Historical Society’s Annual Farm Fest.

Greenwell Farms is hosting a “seed to cup” tour that includes a close-up look at the harvesting, process, and of course tasting Greenwell’s 100% award-winning Kona Coffee.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN to CHAI at GREENWELL FARMS’ KCBX/NPR ONE Podcast

For the coffee purest, be sure to mark your calendar to experience the Kona Coffee Cupping Competition. A panel of judges from around the world will conduct side-by-side blind tastings of more than 50 entries.

Grand Finale—a Taste of Kona at the Sheraton

An evening of culinary delights featuring local Island Chefs and a fabulous silent auction. Music and dancing under the stars with award-winning Kahulanui- a nine piece Hawaiian Swing Band from the Big Island of Hawaii.

Certified cupping judges who have spent three days scoring Kona’s top farms in the prestigious Kona Coffee Cupping Competition will be on-hand to discuss results. Tickets are $50 general and $80 VIP (includes table seating) and can be purchased online at eventbrite.com and search The Grand Finale… A Taste of Kona! Come meet the winners from the Kona Coffee cupping contest and the Kona Coffee recipe contest at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay.

Click here to listen to KCBX/NPR ONE Podcast interview with Festival Board President Valerie Corcoran.

Lodi—Napa without the crowds

360 Magazine Culture Editor, Tom Wilmer explores Lodi, California’s exemplary wine, cuisine and culture.

Lodi has been chugging along as a major wine and grape producer for more than a Century.

Located in the San Joaquin Valley a hundred miles inland from San Francisco and a five-hour drive from Hollywood, Lodi is a highly recommended weekend wine getaway.

Why? You’ll discover truly world-class family run wineries and businesses with the added allure of a small town innocence where the people are friendly and welcoming.

Liz Bokish at Bokish Vineyards

Liz Bokisch savors her wine at Bokisch Vineyards. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Lodi has long been legendary for their Zinfandel—producing more than 40 percent of all premium Zin sold in California. But, Lodi does not get the media-buzz like Napa Valley—and in a way that’s a good thing as it offers an opportunity to experience a world-class wine region that has not gone over the top.

Word Class? Yes. In 2015 the prestigious Wine Spectator proclaimed Lodi as the Wine Region of the year.

Michael David Winery

Michael David;s brilliant Seven Deadly Zins label propelled the winery from a boutique operation to 700,000 case production in 2018. Today FreakShow is a star label. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Lodi was awarded Wine Enthusiast’s coveted “Wine Region of the Year” in 2015, and in September 2018, USA Today’s Readers’ Poll awarded Lodi with second place in the Top 10 Best Wine Regions in America.

Lodi winemakers regularly walk away with double-golds at wine competitions. Mettler Family Vineyards’ winemaker Adam Mettler, was recipient of Wine Spectator’s prestigious 2018 Winemaker of the Year award.

Mettler Family Vineyards tasting room

Mettler Family Vineyards tasting room in Lodi, California. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

There are also delightful upstarts like Ms. Sue Tipton. She didn’t even think about becoming a winemaker until she was 50 years-old—and when she did, she decided to only craft white wines.

Everyone told her she wouldn’t make a go of it unless she also made reds.

Tifton plowed ahead in spite of the naysayers and it wasn’t long before her Voignier won the “Best in the State of California” at the 2016 California State Fair.

Acquiesce Winery awards

Just a sampler of Acquiesce Winery’s award winning white wines. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Come for a visit and you will be pleasantly comforted by the absence of bumper-to-bumper traffic—it’s stone cold refreshing—and savor the preponderance of laid back family run wineries.

It’s no accident that Lodi Wine is slated to be the official wine of the 2019 Amgen Tour of California.

old vine zin at Lucas Winery

Lucas Winery”s old-vine zin planted in 1933 aren’t the oldest zinfandel vines in Lodi–some date from the 1880s. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Wine is just one of the many cool ingredients that make Lodi such a tempting destination—there’s also a burgeoning culinary scene with, of course, a downtown microbrewery.

At Wine & Roses Inn and Spa—you’ll meet, and hopefully have time for dinner prepared by James Beard award-winning chef—Bradley Ogden, a true California culinary legend and trendsetter.

Chef Bradley Ogden in the kitchen at Wine & Roses Inn, Lodi, California. Photo Credit: Lodi Wine Commission

Chef Ogden came to national attention in the early 1980s at Kansas City’s famed The American Restaurant shortly after graduating from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America.

Ogden served as executive chef at San Francisco’s Campton Place Hotel before opening his first restaurant, The Lark Creek Inn, in 1989.

Over the years, he’s been involved in dozens of legendary California restaurant operations, including One Market in San Francisco, his namesake eatery in Las Vegas at Caesar’s Palace, The Lark Creek Inn, Larkspur, and Root 246 in Solvang.

Ogden recently settled in Lodi, California, where he serves as culinary director at Wine & Rose Resort & Spa’s Town House restaurant.

Wine & Roses Inna and Spa’s evocative architecture. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Wine & Roses Spa

Wine & Roses Spa in Lodi, California. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

tranquil vista at Wine and Roses Inn Lodi, California. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Lodi kayaking

Kayaking on Lake Lodi. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

morning outing with Headwaters Kayak Company in Lodi. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Listen in to the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer KCBX/NPR One audio podcast series to hear the stories and tales of the Lodi wine world as told by the locals:

Click here to listen to the Podcast interview at Lucas Winery

Click here for Lodi overview, kayaking, biking, and agricultural history podcast

Wine tasting venues in Lodi are cozy and inviting–like this romantic setting at Macchia Winery. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Click here to listen to Chef Bradley Ogden’s Podcast interview

Chef Bradley Ogden dinner at Wine and Roses Inn, Lodi, California. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Sunset in the fields at Acquiesce Winery Lodi, California. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Old water wagon at Oak Farm Winery Lodi, California. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Lodi Wine Trail. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Back in the day in Lodi, California. Photo Courtesy Lodi Wine Commission

You are invited to subscribe to the Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel show podcast, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, featured on the NPR Podcast Directory, Apple Podcast, the NPR One App & Stitcher.com. Twitter: TomCWilmer. Instagram: Thomas.Wilmer. Member of the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

Ice Breaker ferry ride through Death’s Door

360 Magazine Culture Editor Tom Wilmer reports from Door County Wisconsin.

If you’re not familiar with Wisconsin, look at a map of the state and you’ll notice a jutting peninsula (locals fondly refer to the peninsula as Wisconsin’s thumb) on the eastern flank. That’s Door County; cradled on the western flank is Sturgeon Bay and legendary Green Bay.

Summertime is crazy-busy tourist time with vacationers from around the midwest who have a multi-generational fondness for the rural county.

It’s a rural paradise where cherry orchards remain king, but today family-owned wineries have also become part of the landscape, alongside the ever popular roadside farm stands.

 

Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery & Market in Fish Creek, Wisconsin–symbolizes Door County’s multi-generational family owned businesses. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

     Summertime rocks with legendary lakeside fish boils and  beachside barbecues with live music.

Legendary Fish Boil at Rowleys Bay Resort & Restaurant Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. Photo Credit Tom Wilmer

 

Rowleys Resort Ellison Bay, Wisconsin

Innkeeper at Rowleys Bay Resort Ellison Bay, Wisconsin shows off the end result of the fish boil. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

 

Fish Creek, Wisconsin

Sundowner barbecue and live music on the bay at Fish Creek, Wisconsin. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

 

Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant

Around back–at Al Johnsons Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. Actually they are legend for their goats who mow the restaurant’s sod-roof during the summer months–oh and they serve great food too! Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

If you’re based in a southern state or on the West Coast you might presume that come wintertime the locals in the Northern Tier states hunker down by the fireplace until the spring thaw.

 

Outdoor adventuring on Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in the heart of Door County. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Come up for a visit in the midst of winter and you will see the locals just as busy playing and adventuring in the outdoors as they do in July or August.

 

Great fun to ride a vehicle across the bay to go ice fishing. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Cross Country skiing, snow shoeing, hiking, ice skating–and ice fishing are super popular winter activities. 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crprEtOV-pI

Videographer Jason Lopez produced a 360 video featuring the Washington Island Ferry Service with Richard Purinton and Jon Jarosh from the Door County Visitor Bureau

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE KCBX/NPR One PODCAST about the Washington Island Ferry

End of the road-- Door County Peninsula

The northern end of the Door County Peninsula exhibits a distinctive, intoxicating beauty. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

A cool mid-winter adventure takes place at the northern end of the Door Peninsula–that’s where you board the ice-breaker ferry for a ride across the straits—dubbed long ago by pioneer adventurers Deaths’ Door.

The roots of the name stem from the potentially brutal and sometimes deadly experience when early settles traveled by boat between the peninsula and ports around Lake Michigan.

Washington Island Ferry wintertime

Washington Island Ferry. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Today the Washington Island Ferry transports locals and visitors every day of the year–shuttling passengers between the peninsula and nearby Washington Island.

The Washington Island Ferries are equipped with hardened ice-breaking bows that carve their way across the straits skirting the fringe of Green Bay and Lake Michigan. 

Death's Door Door County, Wisconsin

Crossing the straits of Death’s Door on the fringe of Lake Michigan en route to Washington Island. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Settled long ago by Norwegian and Icelandic pioneers, Washington Island remains populated by descendants of the first homesteaders (the island today claims a large population of Icelandic descendants)–of course along with a new generation of hardy souls, many attracted specifically because of its remoteness and unspoiled natural beauty.

Washington Island Stavkirke

Washington Island’s revered Norwegian Stavkirke (church of Staves) is based on drawings of a church in Borglund, Norway constructed in 1150 AD. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

A saving grace for the island’s pristine environment is that it has experienced minimal development and claims around 700 full-time residents, swelling to more than 1,500 during the summertime.

One of the big draws is a visit to one of the island lavender farms, and lunch at one of the local diners.

In addition to the natural beauty of Washington Island, and Door County, a precious attraction is the friendliness and welcoming attitude of the locals.

White Gull Inn Innkeeper with his woodie

Innkeeper at White Gull Inn shows off his classy ride. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

A stop at a coffee shop is an integral part of life year round on the Door Peninsula. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Fun with the locals at Rowleys Resort Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Jon Jarosh with the Door County Visitor Bureau. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Lake Geneva Wisconsin-year round paradise

360 Magazine Culture Editor, Tom Wilmer visits with Kathleen Seeberg, Executive Director of Walworth County Visitors Bureau as she shares insights about the four seasons attractions of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

boating and yachting on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin has been an iconic part of the allure since the 1870s. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

The modern iteration of Lake Geneva as a consummate resort/vacation destination commenced with Gilded Age barons of Chicago who came to build their mansions on the shores of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin following the devastating Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

 

Iconic Eastlake Victorian architecture on the Lake Geneva waterfront. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Situated just 75 miles away from the Windy City, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin quickly became a coveted destination for the rich and famous…and it remains true today.

The innkeeper’s welcoming smile at the historic circa-1856 Maxwell Mansion symbolizes the friendliness of the locals in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin  Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Over the years, the lakefront town has evolved in to a year-round vacation destination for everybody even though luxurious mansions still line the lakefront—and in Lake Geneva’s modest fashion—even the resort-sized mansions are sometimes fondly referred to as summer cottages and cabins.

 

Since the days of Big Band live music performances Lake Geneva’s Riviera remains as cool place for gatherings of all sorts. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Vacation time in Lake Geneva doesn’t stop with the first November gales…that’s when the locals start prepping for the winter ice festival, tuning up their ice boat racers, and dreaming of snowmobiling, drilling holes in the ice, and setting up their fish shanties on the frozen lake.

 

Gage Marine century old classic vessels are an ideal way to cruise around on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

In the wheelhouse of an iconic Gage Marine vessel touring Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Bill Gage at Pier 290 Restaurant at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

This us just a sampler of the outdoor allures that keep this cool, small town humming year round. The businesses are mostly ma & pa operations–an important ingredient that makes Lake Geneva a most welcoming place.

 

Downtown Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is like stepping back in time. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Lake Geneva Wisconsin’s downtown Horticultural Hall pays homage to the region’s agrarian roots. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE NPR.ORG PODCAST ALL ABOUT LAKE GENEVA

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO BILL GAGE PODCAST TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING MARITIME ON LAKE GENEVA

 

You are invited to subscribe to the Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel show podcast, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, featured on the NPR Podcast DirectoryApple Podcast, the NPR One App & Stitcher.com. Twitter: TomCWilmer. Instagram: Thomas.Wilmer. Member of the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

Doggie Haven-Home For Life

360 Magazine Culture Editor,Tom Wilmer, reports from Wisconsin where he discovers a last hope option for unadoptable dogs and cats.

There are two standard options for dogs and cats that arrive at shelters and pounds: adoption or euthanasia.

Lisa LaVerdia decided to create another option that she dubbed The Third Door, providing a home for unadoptable dogs and cats.

Dr. Jane Goodall visits with Home For Life’s Raha

In a recent visit to Home For Life in rural Wisconsin Tom learns that LaVerdia was a successful lawyer with a specialization in asbestos issues and juvenile lead poisoning.

But mid-career, she took down her shingle, purchased 40 acres skirting the Apple River in Star Prairie, Wisconsin, and opened the Home For Life sanctuary for dogs and cats.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO Lisa LaVerdia on NPR.ORG digital media podcast

 

Lisa LaVerdia at Home For Life   Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Central to Laverdia’s mission is to provide care for life for dogs and cats that are unadoptable—either due to severe health issues or traumatic injuries, often intentionally inflicted by sadistic tormenters.

Through a network of animal rescuers around the world, the dogs arrive from various countries including India, Southeast Asia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

The facility includes temperature-controlled buildings and three catteries, including a building specifically for cats with communicable feline leukemia.

 

Journalist Heide Brandes visits with kitties at Home For Life   Photo Credit:Tom Wilmer

In addition to being home to an average of 100 cats, about 100 dogs reside at the facility in doggie accommodations that include suites and townhouses designed for dogs who need to live in pairs or small groups— complete with piped-in music.

Dog and cat runs are attached to each residential unit, along with four off-leash, expansive meadows.

 

Heide Brandes with paralyzed doggie at Home For Life  Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Staffer Barbara Swenson at Home For Life’s Cattery   Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Latest News– Ashely Judd is scheduled to participate in Home For Life’s gala 2019 fundraiser!

 

You are invited to subscribe to the Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel show podcast, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, featured on the NPR Podcast DirectoryApple Podcast, the NPR One App & Stitcher.com. Twitter: TomCWilmer. Instagram: Thomas.Wilmer. Member of the National Press Club in Washington D.C

Big Island’s Bright Side

360 Magazine Culture Editor Tom Wilmer reports from the Big Island of Hawaii

The reason the 4,000-square-mile island of Hawaii is fondly dubbed the “Big Island” is because it’s the size of Connecticut—it’s so big, all of the other Hawaiian Islands would fit within the boundary of the island.

The island’s recent volcanic activity has impacted the economy due to substantial cancellations by vacationers. But there are major resort destinations far from the adverse effects of the lava flows and attendant air pollution.

For example, the Kohala Coast—with a large enclave of homes, condos, and resorts—is situated approximately 100 miles from the East Rift Zone.

Join the conversation with three islanders as they share their thoughts about the positive aspects of island life today. Simon Amos is the hotel manager at the Hilton Waikoloa Village; Vicky Kometani works at the historic Mauna Kea Resort in the heart of the Kohala Coast; and Laura Aquino is with Island Events based in Kona.

Mauna Kea’s beach is one of Hawaii’s most exotic

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE NPR.ORG PODCAST INTERVIEW

Many local businesses island-wide are experiencing a downturn in business, and some workers have had their hours cut back or been laid off due to the decrease in tourism.

International news reports have been surgically focused on the Kīlauea volcano’s East Rift Zone volcanic eruptions and seismic activity—leaving many people with the false impression that the entire island is a disaster zone.

Big Island Hawaii’s Kohala Coast sunset

Paradoxically, Volcanoes National Park has been the island’s number one tourist draw for decades.

150 years ago, 31 year-old Mark Twain put the island’s volcanism on the world map when he came to the island specifically to experience and write about the island’s volcanic activity as a correspondent for the Sacramento Union newspaper in 1866.

Helicopter flightseeing companies, such as Paradise Helicopters, cater to tourists and locals alike signing up for over-flights of the volcano. Adventurous tourists and locals are hopeful that a viewing platform will open in the near future for up-close observation of the flows.

Volcanism and its attendant vog (volcanic fog) have been an intermittent part of island life for more than 30 years. Vog is definitely an issue in the Kona Kailua area, but most days up the coast along the Kohala Coast the sky is often bright blue and clear.